At the beginning of 2012, the Iziko Museums of South Africa in Cape Town contacted me and asked whether I would be prepared to donate them the mounted animals in my “museum” on our old game ranch, Bankfontein, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. I had a number of meetings with the CEO of the Museums, Ms. Rooksana Omar and her staff and was impressed to hear that they were about to start a R320 million (about $40 million) building program called the “Courtyard Project” to expand and modernize the museums, which was due to be completed in the next three years.
A number of people and institutions had previously asked me the same question but, on closer examination, either the request faded away when they realized what housing such a collection would entail or they could not make up their minds as to exactly what form the offer to me should entail. Never have truer words been spoken than by the person who said that camels were merely horses designed by committees!
The collection on Bankfontein consists of over 300 taxidermied specimens, of which over half were full mounts and included every game animal in Africa currently available on license, with the exception of nine animals comprising mainly forest duikers. The collection had been valued for insurance purposes at over R12 million (about $1,5 million at the time) and the taxidermy costs alone exceed R2 ½ million (over $300 000 at the time).
I spent four days on Bankfontein anxiously watching the very professional team from the removal company, Biddulphs, wrapping, packing, crating, loading and, finally, moving the entire collection in four huge removal vans plus trailers to Cape Town. Once there, it took a further two full days to move the mounts from the trucks into the museum where some of the major pieces would be on display initially until the Courtyard Project was completed in approximately three year’s time. At this stage, the bulk of the mounts would go on display.
Nearly five years later, the Courtyard Project is still not complete but some 50 of my mounts are currently set out in a display entitled, Herbivores and Carnivores of the African Savannah.